Write Now: The Teacup

The Teacup – An Unfortunate, But True, Story | By Matt Helt

In the summer of 1989, when I was the ripe old age of 14, I was visiting my dad in Seattle. This was a trip I had made since I was 5, when my parents called it quits and decided to split. My dad made his way west, and my brother and I stayed with my mom in Sioux City, Iowa.

Once again I was in the great northwest to spend quality time with the old man. One of the weekends while there my stepmother’s brother, Jimmy, came up from Vancouver with his family to visit. They invited us to spend the day with them at an amusement park just south of Seattle. We enthusiastically accepted their offer and jumped in the car. We arrived at the park, paid the entrance fee, and ran to the first ride we saw.

And what was the first ride in our view? The seemingly benign Teacup. But don’t let the name fool you. This machine was designed in Hell – and it was just waiting for the opportunity to decapitate someone.

Jimmy decided he and I should occupy one of the teacups and I gladly accepted. Each of Jimmy’s arms was the size of my 14-year-old torso, and I knew we were going to spin this teacup like it had never been spun before.

We sat ourselves down and the ride operator, a 16- or 17-year-old girl, got the thing turning. Jimmy and I grabbed the circular metal bar between us and started the teacup spinning. It wasn’t long before I noticed we were creating quite a bit of centrifugal force. It slowly pulled at my shoulders, then at the back of my head. Before I knew it my hands were having a difficult time holding onto the bar.

Before I could understand what was happening, my hands lost their grip and my back slammed into the metal seat of the teacup. I tried to scream, but nothing would come out. My arms flew back over my head, and my body started to rise over the back of my seat. Suddenly I was pulled over the lip of teacup. Luckily my feet caught an edge underneath the metal bar in the center of the ride, and held me as I spun around and around.

I looked like a doll tied to a string being swung around someone’s head. I felt the other teacups passing dangerously close to my outstretched fingertips. Woosh, woosh, woosh – over and over again, coming closer and closer as my feet were losing their grip. I began to black out.

Suddenly, a voice yelled – a young woman’s voice. It was the ride operator. She noticed my predicament and felt compelled to take action. With all of her brain cells firing at once she did the only thing she thought made sense at the time.


As I inched toward certain death she made it known I was breaking the rules. Her words scrambled my brain even further. How could she possibly think I was doing this on purpose?

Her efforts did accomplish one thing: Jimmy finally looked up from his spinning madness and saw my helpless, flailing body inching closer to ejection. Using one of his massive arms he reached across the teacup, grabbed my T-shirt, and pulled me back in. It was at that point I recognized a searing pain across my back. The metal lip of the teacup had acted as a cheese grater across my skin. I laid my head down on the inside bar and waited for the ride to stop.

But it kept going.

The ride operator apparently thought that since I followed her instructions and was back in the cup she would allow the ride to go for its normal period of time.

After what seemed like five minutes, the ride finally stopped and I made my way toward the exit. The ride operator stood there staring at me as I limped toward the gate, the back of my shirt stained with blood. Our eyes met and I mustered up the meanest look I throw her way.

But it didn’t faze her. She joyfully greeted me with, “Enjoy the rest of your day!”

About Matt Helt
Matt Helt grew up in the small river town of Sioux City, known for its liquor, meat packing and gambling. Having survived that

experience through raw street smarts and absolutely no athletic ability, Matt left as soon as he graduated from high school to pursue a degree in medicine. He soon realized he wasn’t smart enough to be a doctor, and thus spent the next decade searching in vain for his calling: photography, graphic design and as a “marketing expert.” Finally, he found himself at SecretPenguin, a youth branding agency in Omaha. Here he would firmly plant himself (i.e., refuse to leave) and become a principal/account director.

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